“Religious profession is an act of adoration of God … impelling us to lose our life that we may find it. It draws it’s sacrificial strength from the sacrifice of Christ.” (Constitutions) The vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and enclosure free the human heart of all obstacles to an undivided love of God, from which flows love for all souls and zeal for His glory.
Our Franciscan concept of poverty and expropriation is radical and all encompassing, going far beyond the mere renunciation of earthly possessions to include the whole of religious life. It is a comprehensive surrender of self, of all temporal concerns, in imitation of the self-emptying of Christ. It is in this spirit that the Poor Clare wishes to liberate herself of all personal possessions, making herself free and available for contemplative openness to Christ and the Kingdom of God, for the hope of things to come and for a life of thanksgiving to God, from whom all good things come.
“Virginal chastity endows life with a remarkable spiritual fruitfulness in relationship to the Kingdom of Heaven. We are destined by the vow to be spiritual mothers of the souls of men, gathering their needs into the embrace of sacrificial love.” (Consitutions) Through vowed chastity the Poor Clare spiritually shares in the mystery of the virginity of Christ and his most blessed Mother. With her whole mind and heart, all her affections and desires burning with the love of God, each Poor Clare, like Mary, becomes a humble dwelling place for the Son of God, radiant with the light of his presence. Like Mary, by the power of the same Spirit, she becomes the bride, sister and mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The profession of obedience is a sharing in the mystery of the obedient Christ who, to atone for the disobedience of humankind, came down from heaven not to do his own will but that of him who sent him. He became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Making a total offering of her own will, in imitation of him and to share fully and effectively in the mystery of salvation, the Poor Clare offers herself, like Jesus, as a sacrifice to God, seeking to do the Father’s will in all things.
In the radically withdrawn and hidden life of enclosure which is a safeguard for living in contemplative union with God, the Poor Clare seeks to free herself of so many distractions in order to pay heed to the one thing necessary. The vow of enclosure requires a complete self-despoliation, the delivering up of even legitimate worldly rights to a full freedom of communicating with outsiders and the enjoyment of places and things in the world. Papal enclosure is a witness to our love for souls “for whose salvation our lives are sacrificially offered.”